Best friends, it's been said, are those who bring out the best in others.

Best friends, it’s been said, are those who bring out the best in others.

Tuesday afternoon at Simmons First National Bank in Pine Bluff, an ongoing string of well-wishers turned out to thank retiring Executive Vice President Robert Dill for being a best friend to a countless number of co-workers, customers and others during a 47-year career that will end Monday.

Appreciated for his humor, Dill — after joking in response to comments by Simmons First National Corporation Chief Executive Officer Tommy May — suddenly grew serious when it became time to bid farewell to his fellow employees.

Reflecting on his many positive experiences since joining the bank in September 1966, Dill said the most special element of his work memories will be the people at Simmons First and their dedication and commitment.

“It’s a privilege to work with you every day,” Dill said.

The applause he received seemed to return the sentiment.

Moments before, May took full advantage of the opportunity to again publicly kid the popular Dill, an England native whose late parents — Carl and Hazel Dill — owned and operated a small cafe for a number of years in the Lonoke County city.

“Robert is one of my best friends — most of the time,” May said with a laugh.

Remembering when Dill suffered a serious heart attack several years ago and wound up having emergency bypass surgery at Jefferson Regional Medical Center, May recalled joining Dill’s family in a waiting room. With the operation under way, the group began preparing for both good and bad outcomes.

May said that after the possibility was mentioned, the surgeon confirmed that Dill might have suffered brain damage.

“But how will we know?” May said he asked.

Saying he was impressed by the size of the crowd at Dill’s reception, May said he had never seen so many people at someone’s retirement.

“That can be a good sign or a bad sign,” quipped May.

May recognized Dill’s family — wife Marjo Thornton Dill, son Ryan Dill, daughter Callie Dill and brothers David Dill, Jeff Dill, Jimmy Dill and Wayne Dill — and pointed out that one of Robert Dill’s first SFNB bosses, retired vice president and current consultant George Walker, was also in attendance.

May presented Robert Dill with several gifts, including a big-screen television set and an old, portable tape player. The significance of the tape player, May explained, was that a gift committee believed it was manufactured around 1966 and could serve as a reminder of the year of Dill’s hiring.

Like Dill, May — who called Dill “the face of Simmons First” — became more earnest as he wrapped up his salute.

Dill, May said, has acquired several nicknames through his nearly five decades with the bank, but is primarily known as “friend.”

“Robert is truly a friend to everyone,” May said. “I’ve never known a man who has more friends.”

Glancing toward Dill and smiling, May added, “We all love you, and thank you for all you’ve done.”